The Bramble Cay Melomys Goes Extinct Due to Climate Change

Thu May 23rd, On Environmental Law, by

The Bramble Cay Melomys (Melomys Rubicola), also known as the mosaic-tailed rat, was found only on an island off Australia. Thriving off the small eastern Torres Strait of the Great Barrier Reef, hundreds of rats were present in 1978 after its discovery in 1845. However, studies show that the island began to shrink in 1998, decreasing by nearly 4 acres. Unsuccessful attempts to capture these rodents in 2014 led scientist to conclude extinction. In June 2016, the Bramble Cay Melomys was recognized as possibly the first mammal species to become extinct as a result of climate change.

Since 1880, the global temperature has increased by 1.9°F and sea levels have risen over 3 millimeters per year. Low-lying islands, similar to the Bramble Cay island, where the mosaic-tailed rats’ settled, experience “destructive effects of extreme water levels.” Scientists discovered that 97% of the Bramble Cay Melomys’ habitat was destroyed due to ocean inundation, a phenomenon becoming more prevalent with global climate change. As the global temperature rises, glaciers and ice sheets continue to melt, increasing the overall volume of the ocean. In 2012, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provided sea level rise projections: “there is very high confidence (greater than 90%) that global mean sea level will rise at least 8 inches but no more than 6.6 feet by 2100.” Along with dramatic habitat loss, vegetation becomes scarce, and as a result the islands become unsustainable for these small mammals.

In addition to the Bramble Cay Melomys, other animals may also be experiencing the effects of climate change. Records show that the last Rabb’s fringe-limbed tree frog died in 2016, and the Panamanian frog species vanished by 2007. Scientists express concern, stating that this may just be the start. Fortunately, it has been noted that the public may help mitigate the impacts of climate change by providing protection to the areas that experience adverse effects due to climate change and by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

There are a number of organizations providing climate change education, climate change action, and wildlife conservation. For instance, the World Wildlife Federation works to “help species adapt to our changing world by ensuring that our own responses to climate change factor in the health and wellbeing of the habitat and resources on which they depend.” Meanwhile, the Wilderness Society works collaboratively with local communities to advocate for legal protections on the nation’s wildlands. The World Wildlife Federation and the Wilderness Society are only two among the many organizations working to mitigate climate change. To read more on climate news and the different organizations, please click here.

The California Environmental Attorneys at Bick Law LLP will continue to monitor the issues involving climate change.

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